Swim Safety Is Top Priority

by Sean Ryan, Race Director, Door County Triathlon

Recent fatalities during the swim portion of other Midwest triathlons have attracted media interest and inquiries from participants. In response, the organizers of the Door County Triathlon (DCT) are providing the following information to keep the participants safe and to maximize their safety during the swim portion of the race.

The organizers of the DCT have always gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of race participants, particularly during the swim. These measures include:

Well-Marked Swim Course

In addition to putting out turn buoys, the DCT anchors large orange buoys every 50 yards along the sprint and half-Iron swim courses. The buoys are numbered for the benefit of the participants and the lifeguard director, who is able to assign lifeguards to monitoring specific sections of the swim route.

Ample Lifeguard Staffing

USA Triathlon, which sanctions the DCT, requires one lifeguard for every 35 swimmers in the water for ocean/Great Lakes swims. Based on our participation totals (a maximum of 400 swimmers in the water at any time) and the possibility of wavy conditions, the DCT is required to staff a minimum of 12 lifeguards each day. In reality, the DCT staffs more than twice this amount, with 25 to 30 lifeguards on duty each day. We work closely with the local YMCA to provide experienced lifeguards who receive open-water swim-safety training at Murphy Park prior to the race each year.

Marine Support

The DCT provides numerous types of watercraft to ensure participant safety, including sit-on-top kayaks, jet skis, pontoon boats, extractor sleds and search-and-rescue divers.

Bright Swim Caps

The swim caps with logos that we give out each year aren’t just swag. They are high-visibility equipment that help us monitor your safety, which is why you are required to wear them.

Here are things we recommend you do to ensure your own safety:

Train in a Large, Open Body of Water

Swimming in open water is very different from swimming in the lap lane of a pool. Surface conditions, currents and visibility present additional challenges. In a large, open body of water such as an ocean or the Great Lakes, the volatility in these factors can be even more pronounced. We strongly advise our athletes to pursue opportunities to train in Lake Michigan, the bay of Green Bay, or other large, open bodies of water prior to race day.

Wear a Wetsuit

The surface conditions and water temperatures in Horseshoe Bay can be unpredictable. A wetsuit provides additional warmth and buoyancy to swimmers. If you don’t already own a wetsuit, we encourage you to borrow one from a friend or rent one. Our official wetsuit rental partner is

Relax in the Water

Prior to the start of the race, enter the water so you can acclimate and warm up the water in your wetsuit before your wave begins. If you’re nervous at the start of the swim, hang out toward the back of your wave and use a breaststroke or dog paddle until you’re comfortable putting your face in the water. Focus on relaxing your breathing, and notice the safety infrastructure around you. If you’re new to the sport, have a goal of finishing each discipline, and don’t concern yourself with achieving a specific finish time.

See Something, Say Something

If you see another athlete who is struggling or nonresponsive, take action. Wave your arms and yell to get the attention of the nearest lifeguard before you continue.

Your safety is our highest priority. We will do everything in our power to make your triathlon experience in Door County a safe and enjoyable one. If you have any questions or concerns, just ask.

Green Bay Multisport is hosting a free Door County Training Day (including an open-water training opportunity) on June 29 at Frank Murphy Park in Egg Harbor. The day begins with registration at 7:30 am. To get more information, visit

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